Transgender

Should Gender Transitioning Start At Age 9?

The The Arizona Daily Star today published an interesting article on what many consider to be a contentious topic: transgender children. Profiled is 9-year-old Josie Claudine Romero, who was born a boy and, at the age of 5, was diagnosed by a doctor with gender identity disorder. She has lived as a boy for the last three years and, according to the piece, will soon start to take "drugs to prevent her from going through puberty as a boy. As a teen she hopes to begin female hormone therapy. When she's an adult, she expects to have sexual reassignment surgery."

Jo

The article discusses the whether transitioning at such a young age is a good idea:

"Should treatment be given to prevent adult transsexualism? Some say yes," says New York psychiatrist Dr. Jack Drescher, a member of the American Psychiatric Association's Work Group on Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders. "They believe prevention is preferable to a lifetime of medical treatment with hormone replacement, not to mention there are also surgeries involved." Transsexual is a term sometimes used to refer people, typically adults, who live as the opposite sex. Transsexuals are generally considered a subset of transgender, an umbrella term that refers to people who do not conform to the "norm" of their gender of birth.

Canadian psychologist Kenneth Zucker is known for discouraging gender-variant children from transitioning. Most gender-variant children do not grow up to identify as the opposite sex, he has argued. Other therapists say preventing certain children with gender identity disorder from transitioning is a recipe for depression and self-harm - supporting them through transition allows them to flourish. That's the theory the Romeros follow.

"Josie will change her mind on many issues in her life. Halfway through grad school she may switch her major," Venessia says. "But her blood type will never change, and she'll always be female. All through Josie's life she has persistently and consistently identified as female. Josie is a girl, has always been a girl, and will grow up to become a woman. That is just part of who she is."

Josie and her parents been featured in several documentaries and talk shows. A clip from a British documentary is AFTER THE JUMP.

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Comments

  1. If it prevents the adam's apple and manly look transsexuals have, I say go for it, why not - girls have it easier !!

    Posted by: ty | Jul 25, 2010 1:04:53 PM


  2. I have qualms about this, based on my own experiences. (Though I'm not saying my experiences are the same as everyone's.) When I was a kid, I begged my mother to let me wear dresses to kindergarten. I played with dolls, did hopscotch and jump rope instead of baseball and football. I would fall asleep imaging I was a girl, and had waking fantasies that I was a girl (with a Mary Tyler Moore flip hairstyle -- it was the late '60s) when I was around other boys. I wanted to be a girl. But when I went into puberty, that all gradually went away, and I matured into a gay man. I look back at my childhood fantasies now, and it all seems like a dream.

    Posted by: BrianM | Jul 25, 2010 1:16:13 PM


  3. My personal experience was similar to Brian's. I think a lot of gay male children probably fantasize about being the opposite sex at some point in their lives. Having adults diagnose and treat children with hormones and surgery seems irresponsible. Transgender individuals can obviously transition later in life, and on their own accord, with success. Who we are as children, teens, and adults can all be incredibly different. I wouldn't want my childhood choices or leanings irrevocably affecting my present. Were I transgender, I'd rather regret not transitioning sooner than finding myself wishing the choice hadn't been already made for me.

    Posted by: Denis | Jul 25, 2010 1:30:05 PM


  4. I don't get it. Is she gay?

    Posted by: Dan | Jul 25, 2010 1:31:08 PM


  5. Yeah, I don't think gender reassignment for kids is such a good idea. The procedure is irreversible. Kids don't have the knowledge or maturity to make such decisions, and like another commenter said, that isn't the type of decision you want made for you.

    Posted by: Mike | Jul 25, 2010 1:42:36 PM


  6. Isn't one of the major issues with regards to the transgendered self-determination? And how can you have that if the decisions were all made when you were not even 18 yet? It sounds reminiscent of the circumcision debate. No 9 year old can consent to this with full knowledge of the consequences and what is involved.

    And what is with all this medicalization of gender non-conformity? So your kids a girly boy who likes dresses and "womanly" stuff, why can't it just be ok for her to stay in the inbetween spaces of gender and be celebrated for that?

    Posted by: brandon | Jul 25, 2010 2:03:34 PM


  7. 1. Nobody said that 8 yo would get a "sex change". They're just allowed to live in the gender they feel comfortable with.

    2. At the age of puberty, they're given hormones that delay puberty, so that they can THEN make the choice when they're a bit older (say, 15).

    3. I don't any transgender person who couldn't have wanted that for themselves.

    4. On the contrary, I know two people who transitioned in their early teens, and are very very happy people.

    Posted by: Charles | Jul 25, 2010 2:44:05 PM


  8. Considering that most transgender MTF's look like dudes in drag (not very fetchin' dames...), largely because of the hormones that have given them masculine features, why not? Because they could come to regret it? Well, that's what professionals who can correctly diagnose gender dysmorphia are for.

    Posted by: TANK | Jul 25, 2010 3:30:55 PM


  9. Aside from the fact that identity is complicated and that there is almost zilch in terms of published scientific research or theory on transgenderism, it has come to the point that that people are transgender when they say they are.

    Here's the issue, these kids identify as girls (or boys) based upon socially constructed gender roles. There are no genes or hormones anywhere that dictate girls will like pink, dresses, makeup etc.

    It boils down to using external factors to label internal feelings. In other words, using gender role preferences to label identity. "I am a girl because I like the things girls like."

    I haven't heard any parents or doctors in any of the talk shows or documentaries say clearly to a child, you can play and dress however you like, but the things you like don't make you a boy or a girl.

    Posted by: qjersey | Jul 25, 2010 3:36:21 PM


  10. "I don't get it. Is she gay?"

    Dan, if it turns out she is attracted to women then she will be a gay transwoman, but otherwise no. The report is on gender identity, not sexual orientation.
    When the mother said "we thought we had a gay son," she was referring to a time in the past when she and her partner didn't understand the issue (i.e that her child was born with a penis but identifies as a female). Who she finds (or will find) attractive romantically (which she may or may not have even herself determined at this age) is a different question entirely.

    Posted by: GregV | Jul 25, 2010 3:51:06 PM


  11. There should be as little "transitioning" as possible. Of course, Josie must be allowed to express her gender identity. She is a female transchild, her biological gender notwithstanding. However, she's as female now as she'll ever be. It's not healthy for her to be seeking hormone treatments and so-called gender reassignment surgery at such an early age. Those are decisions for an adult to make, and whatever the decisions may be, they have no bearing on the validity of gender identity. How I wish Transfolk would stop viewing their transsexual anatomy as something that needs correction!

    Posted by: Stuffed Animal | Jul 25, 2010 4:09:21 PM


  12. His Mum seems a little too enthusiastic about the whole situation. Not to say that maybe he does want to be a girl.

    Posted by: DavidW | Jul 25, 2010 4:11:57 PM


  13. QJersey,
    I think really eloquently hit upon an issue I have thought about in regards to trans people for quite some time: Is their belief that they were born in the wrong gender ultimately more related to socially constructed gender roles then anything truly biological? And if so, why not live a life that does not conform to gender roles as opposed to changing one's physical body?
    I think the idea of these kids transitioning through hormone therapy and sex change operations before the age of 18 as totally irresponsible and potentially harmful. Our relationship to our identity is constantly changing. Whats to say that in a couple of years these kids won't have a totally different understanding of what their gender identity is?

    Posted by: AdamN | Jul 25, 2010 4:37:18 PM


  14. "Here's the issue, these kids identify as girls (or boys) based upon socially constructed gender roles. There are no genes or hormones anywhere that dictate girls will like pink, dresses, makeup etc. "

    Qjersey:

    My experience as a trans person > your pet theory about gender.

    My identity is not a social construct any more than you were "taught" to be queer.

    If your keen on these busted thoeries on trans people, I'd like to introduce you to my butch dyke trans women friends and some flaming gay trans dudes.

    "I haven't heard any parents or doctors in any of the talk shows or documentaries say clearly to a child, you can play and dress however you like, but the things you like don't make you a boy or a girl."

    If trans kids are so easily pliable, why are the everyday social sanctions (school, pop culture, etc.) against people assigned male from being feminine not dissauding her from trnasitioning?

    TL;DR version:
    Your whole post denies agency to trans people and is insulting to trans people. We are not your pet gender threory in action.

    Posted by: missanthrope | Jul 25, 2010 6:23:28 PM


  15. Probably should wait until she's capable of making adult decisions.

    She's a child. Their view of the world and themselves is half formed at best.

    Posted by: Gridlock | Jul 25, 2010 8:34:52 PM


  16. Not the best plan to trap these kids into a medical hell-hole so young. Endless surgery and medications should not be taken lightly. Again, there are a lot of things that we all want, but can't have, so one must be mature to make the decision to settle for half-a-loaf.

    Posted by: anon | Jul 25, 2010 11:36:34 PM


  17. To me it is clearly wrong to even think of changing a childs sex. Years ago I had a neighbor with two sons. Because of the younger sons actions and one Doctor's advice they surgically changed the young boy. He was about 8 when the surgery was accomplished but they started this when he was barely six. Years later they all regretted it as he was the most miserable female ever. I was later told by another neighbor that he attempted to reverse everything when he was in his early twenties. What he ended up with is a horific reproduction of what a penis should be and sterile. All because of social thoughts on how a little boy should act.

    Why not just leave well enough alone. Then when the person is an adult they can have all of the cosmetic surgeries that they desire. I have friends who are referred to as hermorphidites. (Sorry if some people do not like that word but I'm not about to look up the latest politically correct version.) These friends have told me time and again horror stories of hormone and other treatments as children. Almost all without exception have stated they would have preferred to have it left until they were adults. To a time when they could evaluate their lives and make these decisions for themselves.

    Posted by: Bear | Jul 26, 2010 3:10:37 AM


  18. What's going to happen to gay civil rights when a confused and angry 18 year old shows up a few years from now saying they were forced to switch their gender as a child by parents pursuing the "gay agenda"? This issue is a ticking time bomb waiting to go off.

    Posted by: MyLittlePony | Jul 26, 2010 3:59:39 AM


  19. Issues of gender and sexuality must be made as adults. There is no way these professionals can predict what this little boy will be feeling as an adult. I fear this is all wrong for this little boy. I know they want to help but they should be supportive without drugs and as he grows continue to be supportive if he still feels he is a girl. Making this decision for a child, and it is that, parents make decisions for children is just as wrong as it would be to send him away for therapy to get him to stop feeling like a girl. This is no better than the people we complain about on the other end of the spectrum. Leave the boy along and just love him and support him if he is a girl or a boy.

    Posted by: Hotceoguy | Jul 26, 2010 6:56:33 AM


  20. The really interesting point is where gender identity breaks from inborn trait to social construct. Masculine and feminine roles have been evolving in the human race for eons. I think it's healthy to be skeptical (not cynical) about questioning the role societal pressure and popular idea plays in the issue.

    Posted by: Jim | Jul 26, 2010 7:38:16 AM


  21. @missanthrope
    I think you are making a big assumption that we weren't taught to be gay. "Gay" and "straight" can be viewed as social constructions as well.

    Posted by: AdamN | Jul 26, 2010 10:59:44 AM


  22. AdamN: I don't know how aware you were as a child or how good your memory is of childhood.
    But I remember very clearly knowing I was gay but not knowing the word for it.
    I also didn't know whether anyone else in the world but me understood the concept, because my family was all heterosexual and 100% of what I saw around me was heterosexual indoctrination, whether on TV or in the neighborhood or at school.
    I would cringe inside every time some teacher would tell us that the boys will be marrying girls someday, etc., etc. The entire world seemed ignorant on the issue as far as I could tell. I KNOW I was naturally gay and that I couldn't possibly have been "taught" othwerwise.
    The WORDS I use to explain sexuality are social constructs.

    Posted by: GregV | Jul 26, 2010 12:19:09 PM


  23. "I think you are making a big assumption that we weren't taught to be gay. "Gay" and "straight" can be viewed as social constructions as well."

    Yeah, so is science also a big assumption and "social construct"? Everything, huh? Continental silly thought. When you grow up (and maybe you won't), all these thinkers you're borrowing from are saying is that if you changed the meanings of certain words, you'd be saying different things...not that "reality" is a social construct.

    And this is claptrap. Sexuality is innate as numerous scientific studies you ought acquaint yourself with imply. All of gender isn't a social construct, and when one truly suffers from gender dysmorphia, that's not a social construct, either.

    Posted by: TANK | Jul 26, 2010 12:36:23 PM


  24. "Not the best plan to trap these kids into a medical hell-hole so young. Endless surgery and medications should not be taken lightly. Again, there are a lot of things that we all want, but can't have, so one must be mature to make the decision to settle for half-a-loaf."

    You know how many trans kids kill themselves because they can't live as their true selves? There's no definitive numbers but the studies that have been done suggest that the rate is higher than with gay teens (which is pretty darn high).

    This isn't a choice that people take lightly, trans people aren't "confused" and need cisgender people to babysit us and make decisions about our bodies. Like with being gay, often times we know who we are from a very young age.

    For many kids and adults this isn't a choice, it's either transition or litterally dying.

    Unless you haven't experienced gender dyshporia (which is a living hell), maybe you should listen what trans people have to say about thier need to transition, instead of projecting your own issues upon us.

    Posted by: missanthrope | Jul 26, 2010 4:47:55 PM


  25. Maybe this will help clarify the issue:

    Sexual Hormones and the Brain: An Essential Alliance for Sexual Identity and Sexual Orientation Garcia-Falgueras A, Swaab DF Endocr Dev. 2010;17:22-35

    ---------
    The fetal brain develops during the intrauterine period in the male direction through a direct action of testosterone on the developing nerve cells, or in the female direction through the absence of this hormone surge. In this way, our gender identity (the conviction of belonging to the male or female gender) and sexual orientation are programmed or organized into our brain structures when we are still in the womb. However, since sexual differentiation of the genitals takes place in the first two months of pregnancy and sexual differentiation of the brain starts in the second half of pregnancy, these two processes can be influenced independently, which may result in extreme cases in trans-sexuality. This also means that in the event of ambiguous sex at birth, the degree of masculinization of the genitals may not reflect the degree of masculinization of the brain. There is no indication that social environment after birth has an effect on gender identity or sexual orientation.

    ----------

    The facts are... that 2 in 3 gender-nonconforming kids are just gay, not trans. But if they're still gender-nonconforming at age 10, then they're trans. Whether you bring them up as male or female won't change these proportions, but may make them terminally (as in suicidally) miserable if you don't listen to what they're telling you.

    Gonadotrophin blockers delay the physical changes from puberty, allowing the child to attain an adequate degree of mental competence. IMHO if they're old enough to consent to having sex, they're old enough to make a change permanent, so should be scheduled for cross-gender hormones. You get about 6 months to a year before the changes there are permanent, and sterility usually results. Surgery can then be scheduled, and they can have something like a normal life.

    Posted by: Zoe Brain | Jul 27, 2010 12:26:43 AM


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